After undergoing several iterations of entertainment venues since its original opening as a movie palace in 1928, the Boston Opera House currently houses the Boston Ballet and hosts touring Broadway shows. As the official home of many high-quality cultural events and concerts, the building is largely considered one of the most magnificent theaters in New England. The Boston Globe reported at the grand opening of the original theater that it was “so magnificent that it kind of [took] your breath away for awhile,” and after a $54 million restoration in 1984, residents and visitors to the Boston Opera House continue to agree.
Originally constructed as the B.F. Keith Memorial Theatre, the building was designed by Thomas White Lamb in a lavish combination of French and Italian styles. Lamb was instructed to plan the theater as a memorial and tribute to B. F. Keith, a renowned vaudeville pioneer and business partner of the theater’s patron. The theater was intended as a movie palace and venue for vaudeville acts. The opening program took place on October 29, 1928, in front of an audience of theatrical stars and legends, as well as the Massachusetts governor and city mayor.
Following the stock market crash and the advent of the Great Depression the next year, the theater stripped its programming to simply running motion pictures with an occasional live show. The theater continued in this vein until 1965, when Sack Theatres purchased the building and attempted a renovation project to restore the site to its former lavishness. At this time the B.F. Keith Memorial Theatre was renamed the Savoy Theatre, and a second screen was added to the stage space in 1973, making the building into a pair of film houses.
The theater closed as a movie house in 1980, and under the direction of Sarah Caldwell, the building was renamed the Boston Opera House and became the home of the Opera Company of Boston. Some of the most innovative and acclaimed opera productions in the nation were performed at the theater during this period. Unfortunately, however, the Opera Company of Boston was ill-prepared to operate a theater on its own, and the costs of maintaining and running the building went unpaid. The Boston Opera House began to deteriorate, and the theater officially closed in 1991. Without heat and with extensive water damage, the electrical system of the building was destroyed, and opulent costumes that had been stored for decades were lost. By 1995, the building was placed on a list of the National Trust of Historic Preservation’s most endangered buildings.
The Clear Channel Company began to renovate the Boston Opera House in 2002 with the assistance of the mayor of Boston. The remodeling included demolishing some of the original stagehouse and attached dressing rooms in order to make room for the large spaces required by modern Broadway touring productions. Modern requirements for heating, air, and plumbing were added as well. However, many of the decorative touches were carefully restored to qualify the building for historic preservation. Highly skilled craftsmen and restoration specialists worked to reinstate the sculpted plaster, gold leaf finishes, and intricate paintings and tapestries.
With the complete renovation, the seating capacity of the theater was reduced to 2,677 people to improve the theater-going experience. On June 28, 2004, the Boston Opera House officially re-opened with a vintage vaudeville performance. Two weeks later “The Lion King” began a six-month run as the inaugural production.
The Boston Ballet made the newly re-established Boston Opera House its home shortly thereafter, and today the theater hosts alternating performances of the ballet company and Broadway Across America. Many other presenters and performers line up dates between the events of these two groups, making the Boston Opera House one of the most popular theaters on the East Coast.
Boston Opera House Schedule
Boston Opera House Seating Chart
Several parking garages are available around the Boston Opera House and nearby in the Theatre District. The Lafayette Parking Garage on Avenue de Lafayette and the self-park lot Millennium Place Garage at the Ritz-Carlton Boston Common on Boylston Street are both options nearest to the theater.
The Ritz-Carlton has another garage located on Boylston Street between Washington and Tremont Streets. The Avery Street entrance for this garage provides valet parking. Although this location is a little farther away, the Opera House can be found by simply taking a right out of the building’s exit toward Washington Street, followed by a left to the theater.
The Boston Common Garage on Charles Street is operated by the Massachusetts Convention Center Authority. This garage is within walking distance of the Opera House, and it is an ideal parking choice for trips that include visits to other nearby attractions and dining.
With an entrance on Broad Street, the 75 State Street Garage has a longer walk to the Opera House, but it is conveniently located near the Faneuil Hall Marketplace.
Several dining options are available near the Boston Opera House. Avery Provision Co. on Washington Street offers 24 prepared dishes, such as stuffed shells and grab-and-go sandwiches, as well as basic groceries. Patrons have the option to sit on a stool in the window of the restuarant or at a 16-seat communal table. Priding itself on quick and easy service, Avery Provision Co. is a place to grab a quick snack or a wholesome meal either before or after an Opera House performance.
Also on Washington Street, Sip Wine Bar and Kitchen works in combination with Avery Provision. This restaurant offers a place to taste wines and Tapas plates of sushi or steak skewers with friends either before or after a show. The majority of the menu features soups, salads, appetizers, and flatbreads to share with a group, but pasta dishes and other entrees are also available.
Salvatore’s, another dining option on Washington Street between the Opera House and the Paramount Theater, presents a classic menu for patrons with time to spare and an express dining menu for those in a hurry to attend a show. While using local products and hand-selected ingredients, the Italian food at an unbeatable value appeals to visitors and locals alike.
Back Deck on West Street focuses on serving American cuisine prepared on grills. The restaurant uses hardwood charcoal to give the foods on its menu a pleasant smoky flavor. The combination of the three grills in Back Deck’s galley provide succulent flavors for the pork chops, steaks, and ribs central to the restaurant’s menu.
Another restaurant on West Street, Fajitas and ‘Ritas has been serving Texas and barbecue cuisine in an upbeat and fun atmosphere since 1989. As a perfect place to relax before or after a performance at the Opera House, this dining establishment offers generous portions of fresh ingredients and some of the best margaritas in Boston.
In addition to dining options, many hotels are near the Boston Opera House. Just steps from the theater is the Hyatt Regency Boston on Avenue de Lafayette. This award-winning upscale hotel offers high-speed internet access, a state-of-the-art exercise facility, and newly renovated rooms with outdoor terraces. Several remodeled public areas provide spaces to gather with friends and family for relaxation, and an indoor swimming pool and sauna allow exercise and relaxation. Guests can enjoy the elegant on-site restaurant, Avenue One, before attending the nearby theater.
The Ritz-Carlton Boston Common on Avery Street is an innovative hotel with a sophisticated design. The Ritz-Carlton is more than just a hotel; it is a complex that includes a sports club, a junior Olympic pool, a 19-screen Loews Cineplex Theater, and luxury condominiums. Conveniently located between the financial and theater districts, this hotel features quick access to many of Boston’s best amenities. Three on-site restaurants provide dining options for guests, including the Artisan Bistro for dinners, the Avery Bar for cocktails, and the private Ritz-Carlton Club Lounge for guests only.
On Stuart Street is the W Boston, home of the famous Whatever/Whenever service around the clock. The signature beds and plush bathrobes combined with specialty amenities, such as a munchies box and plasma television, make a stay at the W Boston unique and enjoyable. In addition to the Market Restaurant and Bar, this hotel also features a fitness center and the full-service Bliss Spa.
Nine Zero Hotel on Tremont Street combines amenities for travelers with a luxurious boutique atmosphere. The hotel features 24-hour room service in addition to full-service housekeeping, high-speed internet access, and a pet-welcoming policy. A full jogging track and a fitness center are available at Nine Zero, along with a daily American breakfast buffet.
Overlooking the Public Garden of historic Boston is the Four Seasons Hotel on Boylston Street. A five-star hotel, the Four Seasons offers a complimentary town car service to drop-off guests within a two-mile radius of the hotel. Decorated in a modern but elegant style, most rooms have excellent views of the Public Garden or the State House. Spacious marble bathrooms and high-speed internet access are available in most rooms, and the entire facility is non-smoking. An indoor pool and fitness center provides additional relaxation opportunities for guests. The Bristol Lounge provides family dining, while the Bristol Restaurant features a more innovative menu.